13 dead, 86 still buried three days after landslide

Updated: 2010-07-02 07:32
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GUANLING -- The death toll from a rain-triggered landslide in southwest China's Guizhou Province had risen to 13 after rescuers recovered another two bodies Thursday night, rescue headquarters said.

Some 2,000 people continued the rescue operation, but the chance of survival for the other 86 villagers was slim after being buried under mud for three days, rescuers said.

More bodies are expected to be found as rescuers comb the ruins.

"It is almost impossible for any of the trapped to be alive now. We are doing our utmost to retrieve the bodies. We hope that will bring closure for the bereaved families," said Li Jigao, a rescuer.

The landslide struck 37 homes in Dazhai Village, Gangwu Township of Guanling County, at 2:30 p.m. Monday.

Some migrant workers have returned home after hearing their relatives were missing. A young woman in her twenties blacked out Thursday morning after seeing some clothing being dug out of the debris, said Liu Shisheng, an armed police officer.

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"My grandfather is still buried there," said Huang Jiping, a senior student from Guizhou Normal University. He rushed home after hearing the tragedy.

Despite the grief, he is helping children to resume classes as a "temporary teacher".

"I major in education, and I think I can help," he said.

More than 80 students resumed their classes in make-shift tents Thursday.

"In the first two days we were looking for survivors with life detectors and sniffer dogs. Today the priority has shifted to retrieving bodies," said rescuer Fan Wenjian.

The landslide lasted for two minutes, and there was no warning.

It would have been very difficult for the villagers to escape, said an official with the Guizhou Provincial Work Safety Bureau.

"The sound was much like thunder. When I looked back, the whole village had disappeared," said survivor Zhang Jin.

The landslide consisted of about 1.5 to 2 million cubic meters of mud, and it was unstable and likely to trigger additional landslides, said Yin Yueping, a researcher with the Ministry of Land and Resources.

At least 1,000 villagers living in the area have been evacuated.

Torrential rains have been ravaging south China over the past two months. A once-in-three-century rainstorm was seen in Lingyun County of Guizhou's neighboring Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region from Sunday to Tuesday, and residents have to go outdoors by boat.

"It will take more than 10 days for the flood to wane because of the geological structure here," said Zhou Lixin, secretary of Lingyun's Luolou Town Committee of the Communist Party of China.

Heavy rainstorms also hit east China's Shandong Province and northwest China's Qinghai Province. Flood water blocked the rail transport in Shandong for two hours, affecting 22 trains, Thursday.

Local meteorological bureaus said heavy rains would continue to pound Shandong and some area of Qinghai Province.